It is no secret that West African countries do very well in cultivating cocoa. Ghana is well known to be one of the top cocoa producers in the region, only surpassed by Ivory Coast. Let us explore the history, industry and culture surrounding cocoa production in Ghana.

It is not surprising that this alone has contributed most significantly to Ghana’s economy. Due to the role cocoa plays, there has been concerted efforts by many governments to boost the sector and heavily promote it so as to exceed its revenue and fiscal targets. 

Tetteh Quarshie – The man who brought cocoa to Ghana

The Tetteh Quarshie Legacy Foundation Facebook Page

Tetteh Quarshie, the man who’s directly responsible for the introduction of cocoa to Ghana, was a young enterprising Ga man who lived at Teshie, a suburb of Accra. He was born in 1842 and literacy education was not very prevalent in his era as it was mostly reserved for aristocrats and many who lived in rural areas and out of town areas had no access whatsoever. 

Despite not having formal education, Tetteh Quarshie was innovative and enterprising and he was able to apply his knowledge in different ways by experimenting and observing things around him. This trait about him may also be due to the training he received from his dad as a blacksmith as they applied their knowledge in metallurgy to solve problems of their day. 

A clever agriculturalist

It was no secret that Tetteh Quarshie was an agriculture enthusiast and he would spend his free time experimenting with different crops and farming methods. In time there came an opportunity to travel to Fernando Po to work as a blacksmith. Fernando Po is known today as Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea and was at the time a Spanish colony. 

While he was there Mr. Quarshie saw some plants that he had not seen before and he found out that they were cocoa. He yearned and longed to show his families and friends what he found in Fernando Po. The journey from Ghana to Fernando Po took six weeks by ship which was the fastest mode of travel then. They had checks to ensure that no one was smuggling anything away from the country so Tetteh Quarshie decided to hide some cocoa beans in his toolbox

How cocoa became widespread in West Africa

When he arrived back in Ghana, he cultivated some and gave some to his family and friends to cultivate. As the cocoa became successful, he set up a whole cocoa farm in Teshie, where he lived and it became a success. He later decided to show other people how to successfully cultivate the crop. 

Change is a hard thing to accept. Many other farmers were skeptical and were not ready to cultivate something they did not have much knowledge about. However, with time they learned to adopt cocoa as part of their stock of plants. It did not take so long for cocoa cultivation to spread along West Africa – Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and many others.

Tetteh Quarshie’s cocoa plantation

The Tetteh Quarshie Legacy Foundation Facebook Page

It is interesting to know that later in his life Tetteh Quarshie was able to make a voyage to England, where he had more tuition and acquired more knowledge on the techniques to successfully grow cocoa and manage a cocoa farm. He spent many years in England learning a great deal. When he returned to Ghana, he established a cocoa farm and set up a large cocoa plantation and processing facility in Mampong, Akwapim. 

This plantation exists till today. After his death in 1892, a hospital was built in his honour and today his portrait is a watermark on Ghana’s currency and an interchange was named after him. 

Cocoa culture in Ghana today

There is a whole culture around cocoa today, as the worldwide demand for cocoa has shot up due to the ever-increasing amounts of products cocoa serves as one of the key ingredients, many more farmers have dedicated their lives to cultivating and selling cocoa. 

This has raised up the living standards of many who hitherto were very poor and it has attracted many more farmers. Since it has been part of the agricultural heritage for over a century, it has become assimilated into the country’s social and cultural fabric. For many the cultivation of cocoa has become part of their identity, with some farmers taking pride in their work and viewing themselves as stewards of the lands – maintaining their lands for future generations.

Some traditional festivals in Ghana have imbibed the cocoa growing culture into their celebrations. The Odwira festival is a notable example where cocoa and its significance are showcased in music, dance and other cultural activities. 

Due to the significant contributions cocoa was making in the economy of Ghana as well as the lives of Ghanaians, The Ghana Tourism Authority instituted the National Chocolate Day in 2005, which was set to coincide with Valentine’s Day on February 14th. This was set to domestically boost consumption of ghanaian chocolate brands and also promote domestic cocoa tourism. 

What cocoa means for Ghanaian economy

Till date, Ghana is the second largest producer of Cocoa in the world and in 2021, cocoa contributed 533 million dollars in foreign exchange for Ghana. This is significant. Many companies have also sprung up from research to produce buying companies that have all had an impact in the value chain and are greatly increasing the value of the production output. 

The government of Ghana set up an institution -COCOBOD which is the sole buyer of all the cocoa in the country for the government.  They provide free hybrid seedlings, fungicides and insecticides. COCOBOD further goes on to provide quality assurance, storage and haulage to be sold to international partners and buyers.

Cocoa has been the number one cash crop for Ghana and has changed the lives of many people in Ghana and beyond. As you buy a chocolate product, know that there is a high probability of it being from Ghana. As you enjoy it, remember the selflessness of the curious blacksmith Tetteh Quarshie who devoted later parts of his life to ensure that as many people cultivated and benefitted from cocoa. 

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